Cash in the Attic: How to Sell Antiques and Create Income from Your Hobbies

A woman is painting on a canvas.

These tips and resources may help you get the full value of your antiques, collectibles, and hobbies.

Thanks to the extraordinary times we’re in, you might be thinking of ways you could earn some extra income. Perhaps you have some antiques collecting dust that you’re considering selling. Or maybe you’ve thought about turning that hobby you’ve mastered during shelter-in-place orders into a way to earn some extra income. The ideas here can help you take the next step.

1. Get a professional appraisal. If you believe a piece is very high in value or your collection contains some true rarities, hire a certified appraiser to give you a written estimate of its value. An appraiser is more likely to give you a fair price than someone interested in buying the item because there’s no conflict of interest, advises Pamela Wiggins Siegel, an antiques and collectibles expert based in the Austin, Texas area, and owner of Chic Antiques by Pamela.

Some appraisers currently may not be available because of the coronavirus pandemic. Siegel recommends contacting the International Society of Appraisers to see who’s open for business in your area. Some appraisers specialize in specific fields like books, artwork, or jewelry. However, keep in mind that appraisers typically charge $200 to $400 an hour. If your items aren’t worth significantly more than that, it probably doesn’t make sense to invest in a professional appraisal.

2. Get an appraisal online. Auction houses and appraisal services often offered free evaluations to the public on special days. But that has changed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s still fairly easy to get a sense of an item’s value using internet resources, Siegel says. Siegel recommends getting an online appraisal at sites such as Value This Now if your item doesn’t warrant spending the money on a written appraisal, or if you don’t need one for insurance purposes. For a low fee, you can submit photos online and have a professional evaluation sent to you via email. First, carefully check the item for any kind of identifying mark. (Don’t forget to check inside the drawers of a piece of furniture.)

Once you know who made the piece, other online options to check its value include searching eBay for the item. Using a specific search term increases the likelihood of finding a similar item for comparison. Use the “advanced search” feature to search only “completed sales” to get a sense of the item’s actual retail value. If you can’t find your item, check what similar items have sold for. Ruby Lane and Etsy’s vintage items are two other sites worth checking. Make sure you consider the condition of your item as part of your assessment.

3. Options for selling your goods. Once you have a price in mind, you have several options for selling your item.

  • Seek a specialized online dealer. You can find dealers specializing in everything from antique dolls and coins to cards and clothing. One example is Just Collect, which has a thriving market for old baseball cards and other collectibles customers sold to the company. Replacements, Ltd. specializes in old china, crystal, and flatware it bought from customers, and Poshmark specializes in fashion customers listed and sold directly to collectors. Most have some process for buying items, but you can also email dealers directly, tell them what you have, and ask them to make you an offer, Siegel says.
  • Sell the items yourself. You’ll make the most money by cutting out the middle man and selling the items yourself, but it does take a bit of effort, Siegel says. To sell items online, Siegel recommends setting up an account on eBay. If you think you have something special, put it up for auction rather than setting a fixed price. That way, the natural laws of supply and demand will set the price. Just remember to set a reserve price on the item for the lowest price you’re willing to accept to protect your investment. If shipping will be expensive, consider selling locally through Facebook Marketplace or OfferUp.
  • Sell to a local antiques or collectible store (if open). Because you typically walk in with your item and walk out with cash, this is the quickest and most efficient option for selling, Siegel says—but keep in mind you won’t get top dollar, and they may be closed right now because of the pandemic. “Because dealers have to resell your item and they have all of the overhead associated with running a business, you will only get 25% to 50% of what the retail price will be,” she says. Be sure to check if your local antique mall or shop is open first before heading out. Some are taking items by appointment as well.

4. Consider turning your hobby into extra cash. Shelter-in-place orders during the pandemic could have resulted in perfecting a hobby or starting a new one. If you want to sell your unique handcrafted items, oil paintings, or face masks made with decorative fabric, online marketplace sites such as Etsy could be a good place to start.

Etsy is a popular e-commerce site for crafters and shoppers, but it’s not the only option available if you’re looking to sell your wares.

ArtFire lets crafters worldwide buy, sell, and interact. Amazon Handmade is for artists wanting to sell pieces to a mass audience. IndieMade is considered a one-stop shop for artists, handling everything needed for marketing and managing a website.

Wells Fargo Advisors does not offer tax or legal advice.